As a little cooling down trip from my two months in Asia I planned a six day trip to Italy. Italy has an amazing fall because of the nice temperature and sunny weather. In this trip I visited three beautiful cities in Tuscany: Pisa, Lucca and Florence (Firenze). The public network in Italy is well organized and cheap so it was very easy to see a couple of cities in only a few days.
My trip started in Pisa, where I stayed in Pisa Hostel (via Hostelworld). The location of this place is really fortunate because it’s walkable from the airport (20 minutes), the train station (5 minutes) and the city centre (10 minutes). I paid €15 euros for one night in a 4 bed dorm which is a great deal for Italy. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is to eat your meals here. I arrived late so I had a pizza and the quality was not good. The wine was yum so you can always have a drink here!
I spent half a day in Pisa and for me that was enough. Pisa is not big at all so you can walk everything. And walking around this pretty little place is already amazing because the streets are beautifully romantic. While walking to a breakfast place I checked out some street art called Tuttomondo of the artist Keith Haring, which I absolutely loved – it has a pop art kinda style. I had some breakfast at a really good coffee place called Filter Coffee Lab. You have all kinds of good food here and tasteful coffee. I enjoyed a smoked salmon bagel with a massive cup of café latte here while enjoying the beautiful street where this cafe is located.
After that I walked to the highlight of Pisa: the tower! The tower is centered in a beautiful area with a lot of sightseeing places! You can buy a combination ticket to go in different kinds of buildings (8 euros) or you can buy a ticket to climb the Pisa Tower (18 euros). I decided to walk around instead and I visited the Cathedral (free) which was beautiful. My advice is to go early in the morning! I was at the tower around 10am and it was nice and quiet. When I walked out of the Cathedral around 11 it was already very crowded with a lot of massive groups guided by tourguides.
I continued my day to a beautiful little square called Piazza dei Cavalieri. From there my walk continued through the beautiful streets of Pisa. I bumped into a cute little food market and, of course, enjoyed some Italian ice cream. I decided to visit a museum as well and I picked the museum Blu. There is a temporary exhibition about the Dutch artist Escher right now (until January 2018) and it was amazing! I’ve always been a big fan of his work because it’s so mathematical it will get you lost in his paintings. The longer you look at his paintings the more you forget which is up and which down. Impressive! Besides the temporary exhibition you can check out beautiful Italian art in the permanent exhibitions.
After the museum I took a train to Lucca. For only €3,50 and in 30 minutes the train will get you there. I loved Lucca instantly. There are way less tourist than Pisa so you will get more to the ‘real’ Italian vibe. The city still has an intact city wall which gives the city an interesting vibe. Lucca is also called the city of 101 churches and you will understand way the minute you step foot in this old city. Just as Pisa Lucca is easily walkable and you will enjoy all the little cobble stone streets everywhere.
I stayed in Ostello san Frediano in a 6 bed dorm for €25 including a yummy buffet breakfast. It’s very well located inside the city walls of Lucca and the building itself is beautiful. I enjoyed a good glass of wine and some cheese and meats at La Tana del Boia next to the beautiful Cathedral San Michele in Foro. I also checked out the famous tower of Lucca with the trees on top: Guinigi Tower. The next morning I walked half of the city wall (which is around 2 kilometers) which gives you beautiful view all over the city. The wall itself is beautiful as well whilst you walking through two rows of beautiful old trees (extra beautiful in autumn of course).
Again by train I continued my Tuscany trip to Florence (Firenze). Because I had some time here I started quite relaxed by just walking around. And even Florence is one of the bigger cities here in Tuscany, everything is still on walking distance. So as I walked I already bumped into so many beautiful buildings, squares and churches. Maybe the most impressive place here in Florence is the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The immensity and the details will take your breath away as you can see on the picture below.
Another beautiful thing to do, especially if you love some nature, is the garden of Boboli. Here you can just wander around through the park, enjoy the amazing views all over the city or to take a look at the palace and just enjoy the sun and nice temperature while relaxing in the grass.
I was lucky enough to spent time with a friend of mine who actually lives in Florence so he made sure I experienced Florence as much as I could during my three days here. And when you think of Italy you think of food (well I do), so make sure to try some Italian dishes! We started with a ‘typical’ Italian breakfast which was in a little cafe where we drank a cappuccino and ate some sweet pastries (you will learn quickly that Italian love their sweets). After this experience I saw Italian having breakfast standing at bars everywhere.
After a bit of wandering around my friend decided that it was time for more food and he took me to a little place which wasn’t more than an open window in a little alley where we ate the third cow’s stomach (yes really) on a sandwich. I was very (VERY) worried but after trying it was actually quite tasteful! And apparently you will find this sandwich only in Florence so it is a must try! Just look for Panino Lampredetto and you will find it everywhere. We walked a bit more, checked out some squares. I loved Della Signoria square where you can check out some beautiful statues and Neptune’s fountain. In the middle of this square you will find some art which they change every year. The piece of art right now created some discussion among the Italians.. find out and see why. Next to this square you will find the famous Uffizi museum: the first public museum in the whole wide world! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go because I tried to go on Monday and it was closed. But if you have any chance to go, make sure to do it! It’s definitely on my list for my next time in Florence.
From the museum we walked to the beautiful river Arno where we saw the beautiful bridge with old houses on it. My friend told me that back in the days there was an awful smell in the city which was caused by all the butchers. Therefore they decided to move all the butchers to this bridge. After a while the hygiene standard improved in Florence so the butchers got back to the city. And since then one of the biggest prides of Florence moved to this beautiful bridge: gold. And these gold shops are still there! Around lunch time we enjoyed some meats, cheese and red wine in the Italian sun (seriously, I’m moving to Italy – food heaven for every single foodie) at the other side of the river. We walked a bit more to the indoor central market of Florence where we had a traditional Sicilian dessert: Cannolo Siciliano – a little cookie filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and topped with either chocolate or pistacchio. And that was the end of a perfect sunny (#eatallthefood) day in Florence.
My last day in Florence I spent walking around one more time. I also really wanted to see a museum but I didn’t really think about opening times and since it was a Monday, most museums were close. Luckily the National Museum (Bargello) was open. Here you can see mostly beautiful statues, one of them is Donatello’s famous David statue. Big tip for if you are a European citizen under 25 years old: bring your passport! It will give you some discount at many places. At night (after some ravioli tartufo and red wine) I decided to go to a opera performance in the beautiful Santa Monaca church in the middle of Florence. If there’s some opera around when you’re visiting Florence, definitely check it out! For me it was such an amazing experience. The music took my breath away as well as the scenery of this little church and it made my trip to Tuscany feel complete.